x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Arshad strikes to give UAE hope in Intercontinental Cup

'Hosts' Afghanistan lose last five men cheaply guaranteeing six points for 'tourists' in Sharjah.

Arshad Ali impressed against Afghanistan.
Arshad Ali impressed against Afghanistan.

SHARJAH // By trade, Arshad Ali is principally an opening batsman who can bowl a bit, but he gradually seems to be redefining his role in the UAE team.

"I personally believe he is a strike bowler," said Kabir Khan, the UAE coach. "He bowls very good lines and can get you crucial wickets."

Arshad got six of those yesterday, at a time when Afghanistan seemed in absolute control of the Intercontinental Cup game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. The UAE were searching for a hero, and Arshad, 35, struggling for runs in recent times, came to his side's rescue.

He foxed the final six of Afghanistan's batsmen to finish with his best first-class figures of six for 45, giving the UAE a 138-run first innings lead and assuring them of six points.

Afghanistan, the "home" side, lost their last five wickets for a mere six runs and were bowled out for 328.

By the end of the third day's play, the UAE stretched their lead to 350, with 212 for five on the board. Swapnil Patil was at the crease on a fluent 74, having added 75 for the third wicket with Bakthiyar Palekar (61), who scored his second half-century of the match.

"Experience counts and during the selections I always back Arshad," Kabir said. "I always say he is a handy bowler to have in the side. If he is going through a bad patch as a batsman, we can still play him as a bowler.

"He is doing his job, which is very important. He does not spin the ball and I would say he is a poor man's Anil Kumble, but the good thing is he is always in the match, excited.

"He is hungry and wants to perform in every capacity. You need hungry players, no matter what their age or fitness level."

Teammates keep ribbing Arshad about his lack of spin, but he does fancy himself as a bowler.

The zest he shows on every step to the bowling crease is visible, and it becomes more obvious in his exaggerated reactions to every miss by a batsman. When the veteran, who was born in Sialkot, Pakistan, takes a wicket, he is a sight to behold.

"My whole team knows I don't spin the ball," said Arshad, who has taken seven wickets in a limited-overs international.

"Everything comes straight. But I keep telling them: 'You can smash me around here, but a new batsman will have a difficult time against me.'

"Any batsman playing me for the first time thinks the ball is going to turn, but the ball goes straight like Anil Kumble and Shahid Afridi."

Arshad's bowling performance has given the UAE an edge going into the final day of the game today, with an outright win being the only recourse for Afghanistan.

Kabir has promised to test their resolve. "I will definitely be interested in giving them a chance because they think they are really good," he said.

"So I will try them and see if they can do it or not, but I personally think it is about us getting safe first.

"We don't want to take any risk. There is nothing at stake for us. They have to win the game now and if they want to do that, they will have to try harder. We just have to relax, take our time and give them less time to score more runs if we need to."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae